In Israel, sport is a tool to bring people together | Letters

Ohad Zemet of the Israeli embassy responds to an article accusing the country of ‘sportswashing’. Plus, Salle Dare on The Big Ride for Palestine

Jonathan Liew’s article (Sportswashing is associated with certain countries – why not Israel?, 24 January) stated that Israel uses sport as a “tool of repression”. I wonder what Bibars Natcho, the Muslim captain of the Israeli football team, would think about this statement; or the Sports in Service of Peace programme which enables Israeli and Palestinian children to play together to promote coexistence, and who participated in the Argentina-Uruguay match. While Israel may not be renowned as a sporting powerhouse, on a human level, sport is clearly an invaluable tool for promoting cooperation between peoples.

According to the article, even Israelis engaging in sport is considered illegitimate. So we, Israelis, cannot do anything. Even our contributions to the international community are deemed illegitimate. Pinkwashing, greenwashing, vaccinewashing – even a peace agreement with Arab countries receives similar accusations. This is particularly dangerous, implying that Israel is not a state like any other, whose contribution to the world can be celebrated. This week marks the greatest catastrophe to the Jewish people, and it is 73 years since the UN recognised the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in Israel. Israel can be criticised, even harshly, but it is about time it was treated the same as any other country in the world.
Ohad Zemet
Spokesperson, Israeli embassy

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